Good Pet Dental Care Starts with X-rays

Almost all pets over the age of two suffer from dental disease. Have you noticed the dark yellow-brown coating on your pet's teeth or the awful smell, dropping of food, and loss of weight? Can you imagine the pain they must feel from loose teeth or rotten roots?

Dr. Bratton studies a pet's digital dental x-ray.Dental disease can progress to heart problems, kidney disease and early death. However, dental disease in pets is preventable with proper home care as well as routine exams and cleanings.

During a pet's annual exams, we frequently find problems in the mouth. We pay great attention to our teeth — visiting the human dentist every 6 months, brushing and flossing daily. If only we would do that for our pets to combat the development of the bacterial scum layer, plaque, and then the invasion of bacteria into deeper tissues (periodontal).

With the added capability of our dental digital x-rays, we can find hidden disease and problems. Our patients can't tell us if a tooth hurts, so they suffer in silence and struggle to eat. Tooth resorption is a major problem that only digital dental x-rays can reveal. It happens in dogs, but more frequently in cats.

Baby teeth erupt early in life, but last a short time as adult teeth push them out. In order for the baby teeth to fall out, certain cells resorb (or eat) their own tooth roots. In the early stages, resorption happens below the gum line and there is no inflammation or pain. Once the resorption breaks through the level of gum tissue, it becomes contaminated with bacteria and becomes inflamed and painful. This is "teething pain" and is short-lived while the tooth falls out and tissue heals.

Adult tooth roots are not supposed to resorb. They should remain intact and unchanged. For reasons we don't understand, the adult teeth in cats often undergo resorption. This process isn't organized and can start anywhere on the root(s) of the teeth ending with significant bone loss and pain. There is no way to repair the damage or halt the resorption process. The only treatment is extraction of these affected teeth, which we find by dental x-rays.

Digital dental x-rays also help us sleuth the reason a tooth appears missing. Is it truly missing, or is there an impacted tooth? Is there a remnant of a root from a broken tooth? Teeth may appear normal, but they may have a dead pulp or periodontal disease that can only be detected with dental x-rays. In one study, 28% of dogs and 41% of cats with "normal" teeth had clinically significant disease.

For complete dental care, dental x-rays and an ultrasonic cleaning with polishing makes a difference in your pet's life. We begin the process and, hopefully, you will continue the care with our help and dental products in your home.

Smile — your pet thanks you for the care.